Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

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Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby Mike » Mon Apr 02, 2012 6:24 pm

I was looking for something to sip this afternoon. I was thinking of Knob Creek Single Barrel because it is so rich and thick - but it is 120 proof, a mite more than I want to take on. On the other hand, I was holding a bottle of Evan Williams vintage 2010 Single Barrel in my hand and it is 86.6 proof. The EWSB is a softer whiseky, but delightfully silky and delicately sweet. By mixing 30 ml of EWSB with 20 ml of KCSB, I got a bourbon that is 100 proof and just superb. At $24 a bottle for the EWSB and $44 for the KCSB, the cost of a 750 ml bottle of this EW/KC vatting would be $32.

I know of no $32 bourbon that is better. It is as rich, as softly sweet, and as tight as anything out there. In fact, so good did Ole Mike think this bourbon be, he jest made heself a full bottle of it. And soon, soon, I will lay me hands on some EWSB and eome KCSB and make some more of it too, it will become my 'go to' bourbon and will give up nothing to any other bourbon in my collection. Both EWSB (2010 release) and KCSB are about 9 years old, give or take a few months.

I was foolish enough to compare this vatting to Wild Turkey Tribute......... a mistake to be sure, but not one for which I should be held accountable. WT Tribute has greater balance and (remarkable for a WT bourbon) greater subtlety. Now, boys and girls, I committed a grand heresy.

I added less than a splash of a very good Irish Whiskey to me vatting of EWSB and KCSB with the aim of replicating the WT Tribute subtlety. The addition of some of the moderating influence of the malt does remarkable things. In to the vatting of EWSB and KCSB goes a potion of an excellent malt whiskey...........

Now, if you do not know the virtues of Malt Whiskey, you should........ Scotch Whisky is one Malt Whisky, Irish Whiskey is another....... I prefer Irish meself (not that I frown on Scotch, mind you). Malt sweetness is of a different character than corn sweetness......... it is, shall we say, a fuller, of a more rounded character than that of corn sweetness. Pay attention, lads and lassies, at the risk of sounding pretentious, I know something about whiskey.

At your own risk, you may dismiss the skills of the best Canadian Whiskey makers, because they 'blend' most of their whiskies......... but they make some excellent whiskies (Forty Creek Centenial Oak is an example). And, they know the value of a malt component.

My whiskey vatting now contains (approximaely) 60% EWSB, 35% KCSB and 5% excellent Irish Whiskey. It now approaches, but is not as quite as good as Wild Turkey Tribute. Which is, in part, to say that if and when you might come across a bottle of Wild Turkey Tribute Bourbon, get it, irrespective of the cost. But, you can come close with the vatting I have suggested........ and Tribute is a rare find these days.

Lucky you, me opinons are free and pretty much match that value.
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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby Bourbon Joe » Mon Apr 02, 2012 10:22 pm

Gotta give that one a try Mike.
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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby jaycamm » Thu Apr 12, 2012 9:52 pm

Mike, would be opposed to revealing which Irish Whiskey you used in this vatting?
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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby gillmang » Fri Apr 13, 2012 1:46 pm

Just catching up with this, Mike. If you added a single malt Irish whiskey as your comments suggest, in effect you have increased (is one way to look at it) the barley malt component of the two bourbons. More barley malt was used in the past (generally) than today because it costs more than unmalted grains such as corn and rye. I used to add single malt scotch, an unpeated kind (which most Irish malt is) to bourbon vattings to increase the malt component, which would make the bourbon taste fuller and richer (that's what more malt does), and I think you have done the same thing. Now, if you added what used to be called pure pot still Irish - i.e., Irish whiskey made from a combination of unmalted barley and malted barley with the former predominating, you would have added (is one way to look at it again) not just some malt to the bourbon mashbill, but also an unmalted grain other than rye and corn: it's become a 4-grain bourbon mash in other words, which should increase complexity.

True, the Irish whiskey, whatever kind it was, wasn't (likely) aged in new charred oak, but we can ignore that I think, given the relatively small amount you added. Anyway, surely there's enough char in them thar bourbons to make up for the repose of the good Irish whiskey in meek reused barrels - plus they were (almost certainly) American reused barrels, and there's a power of good right there.

The only way you would have gone a little wrong (possibly) is if your Irish was a blended whiskey in the technical sense, i.e., if the base whiskey was distilled at or close to GNS strength, since that would have entered your vatting and "diluted" it somewhat (given the blandness of whiskey distilled at a high proof, that is). So if that is what you used, perhaps you went off the straight and the narrow too, which doesn't mean it didn't taste real good, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. Anyhoo I think I'll stop a typin since for one thing, this note is usin too many parentheses and doesn't need any more!

Hope you are well and we can meet up some day, a prospect that keeps getting pushed into the future, but we should fix that. :)

Gary

P.S. I just remembered that a craft malt whiskey, Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey, is aged in new charred barrels. Something to consider for adding to a future bourbon vatting because the unity of the charred barrel would be preserved. The Stranahan's isn't aged more than a few years I think but that doesn't matter IMO.
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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby Mike » Mon Apr 16, 2012 5:56 pm

jaycamm wrote:Mike, would be opposed to revealing which Irish Whiskey you used in this vatting?


jaycamm, I used 'The Irishman' Single Malt Whiskey (ten years old). It is a very nice Irish Whiskey that sells for around $30, I believe.
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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby Mike » Mon Apr 16, 2012 6:53 pm

Gary, as far as I know, 'The Irishman' I used in this vatting uses only malted barley and has no unmalted barley. I have tried Stanahan's Malt whiskey and found it to be pretty good whiskey, but I have none now. I do have Wasmunds Malt Whiskey (barly kilned with some fruit wood in the fires, which add an interesting flavor). I also have St George Malt whiskey, which I do not think uses unmalted barly in the mash and which I think is probably no more than two years old.

I tried the St George in the proportions noted above, 60% EWSB, 35% KC, and 5% St George. It makes for an excellent vatting that is ever so slightly less sweet (and slightly younger tasting) than the vatting with the IW (which is aged in used bourbon barrels, AND used sherry barrels).

In a head to head twixt the 'St George' enhanced and 'The Irishman' enhanced vatting, methinks the 'Irishman' wins out. That 5% malt whiskey makes a huge difference in the taste of the whiskey, with the IW providing a soft sweetness not there in the St George, but both 'rounding' the overall taste nicely.

Other folks may find that soft sweetness too softening, but I am a huge lover of Irish Whiskey, much preferring it to Scotch. There is not a week in my 'spirit(ual)' life that passes without at least a sip of IW and/or a sip of a very good Canadian. I highly recommend, as I did above, Forty Creek Confederation (I mistakenly called it Centennial in that first post) Oak Canadian and consider it a world class spirt for its delicate sweetness and softly assertive rye spice and fruitiness. The Confederation Oak whiskey component spirits are apparently aged seperately (corn, rye, and barley) in their own barrels and then 'married' for additional years in a common barrel to blend their flavors....... an interesting process in its own right, and in my opinion, a very successful one, which has led to many awards for this whiskey.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby gillmang » Tue Apr 17, 2012 3:55 am

The Irishman actually comes in different iterations, an all-malt version and one which combines malt and pure pot still whiskeys. It sounds like you used the former, but either would add a lot to a bourbon mingling as clearly you found. The young American malt whiskeys should work well too but I'm not surprised the Irishman is a tad ahead of them in the mingling, and this would be likely that it is aged longer. I liked the fact that Stranahan's was aged in new charred oak but as you said the Wasmund should add too an interesting taste from the fruitwood used. Anyway the key to it all is that the malted barley component of the original bourbons is "increased" to a level more characteristic of 60 years ago and more.

Glad to hear these experiments are working so well and please continue to report them, Mike!

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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby EllenJ » Tue Apr 17, 2012 10:51 am

You are BAD men, Gary Gillman and Mike Bowers.
You are evil incarnate.
You are soul-predating serpents in an apple (or possibly grain) tree, tempting and taking advantge of an innocent babe, such as myself, in the woods of vatting whiskies to produce enhanced products.
You dirty, rotton, SOBs, you!!!!

Okay, I have duplicated the vattings you both have expounded upon. Frankly, I find them delicious, but probably not worth the trouble, since there are already whiskies that I like just as much, although the vattings allow a more economical way of enjoy such flavor profiles.

However, idiot though I may be (and if at least SOME of the folks I respect on this forum don't think of me that way, I feel I may not be expressing myself adequately), I have taken upon myself to use the idea of including malt whiskey to replicate some of that "old-style" whiskey flavor. And, after many, MANY experiments I have actually succeeded in either (1) discovering how to do this believeably and economically, or (2) become so ineibrated as to be totally unreliable.

Here's the deal: You mix this up and tell me what you get. Both of you have had the opportunity to taste the real McCoy, so I'm relying on your memory of this. I'm comparing side by side and *I* think I've got it right. Let me know what you come up with...

1 part Wasmund's unaged malt whiskey @124 proof
2 parts Lemon Hart 151 rum (the really dark kind)
2 parts Old Overholt 80 proof rye (the current, easily obtainable variety)
3 parts George Dickel #12 @90 proof

This will produce a product that comes in at 107 proof (gee, does that sound familiar?) and which cannot be called anything but "spirit", since it isn't a whiskey(bourbon, tennessee, scotch, or rye) or a rum. It also, at least as far as I can tell by side-by-side tasting, makes for a very reasonable substitute for the sort of old Maryland Rye whiskey (probably actually sold as rum) that we (at least some of us) love. Take it down to 100 proof if you want to compare with bonded whiskey from the Pre-Pro era.

Let me know what you think.

Oh, by the way, the cost of this vatting is about $16.25 a bottle (750ml). Go figure!
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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby gillmang » Tue Apr 17, 2012 7:25 pm

Well John, I'd like to try it, certainly. You are getting in the spirit, so to speak. :)

Vatting is something very old, blends of straight whiskeys (100% straight whiskeys) were common in the market from the 30's-50's, and before Prohibition. And sometimes they were flavoured with something, so why not a little rum or whisky from Britain or Ireland? It's all in the taste result. (In fact if precedent was needed for the idea specifically of blending American straight whiskey and Irish whiskey, it was done in the 1930's for a time, I can provide the pictures from old ads, should anyone want to see).

And true enough the vattings may not best the finest bourbons or rye on your shelves, but of course one may not have those specimens in the bunker at any one time. So why not make it for yourself from existing materials? It seems an economy in fact, but for most the creative element is foremost, I think.

It seems (at worst) idle, but in reality it's au contraire. :)

Gary

P.S. I think I might do three parts Overholt and one of rum in your blend. Or two parts Overholt and one of any well-aged rye (Michter's 10, say), plus said rum. But I trust your judgement and would like to try it as is, to be sure.
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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby gillmang » Wed Apr 18, 2012 7:40 am

Another thought that occurs to me from your suggested blend is the old connections between American whiskey and rum. Not a direct connection in the sense of derivation or use of shared materials (except yeast I guess), but in the idea that American whiskey replaced use of rum after the American Revolution. Just as some have thought bourbon as a specific form of American whiskey may have some connection to French brandy in the sense of being an emulator and suggested replacement, was American whiskey similarly thought useful to replace rum? While the connections between modern bourbon and rum seem not evident, a new white dog whiskey and raw (unaged) high proof rum seem closer. Whisky comes from Europe originally of course, but did early American whiskey-makers look to new white rum as a kind of model when making their unaged common whiskeys whether from corn or rye?

Substance for another thread I know, but even into the 70's some bourbons had a kind of rum-like taste I think, and this could be an echo of an old connection between the two?

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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby bourbonv » Wed Apr 18, 2012 11:06 am

Gary,
One of things under discussion in the Taft decision was the use of neutral spirits made from rum being used in whiskey. Taft specificaly prohibits the use of such spirits and requires grain neutral spirits for the product to be called whiskey. Obviously taft felt the neutral spirits made from rum gave a flavor to the product and it was not a whiskey flavor.
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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby gillmang » Wed Apr 18, 2012 12:02 pm

That's interesting, Mike. I've heard that today, chemical analysis cannot determine the fermentable sources used in neutral spirits, so perfect is the rectification achieved by modern column stills and distillation techniques. Perhaps that was not the case then but even if it was, I think the decision was correct (assuming that is that one should include neutral spirits in a whiskey definition to begin with, but that's the first decision they made).

You have to draw the line somewhere, I don't think it is too much to ask that whisky, no matter how neutral, be distilled from a cereals mash.

And so I accept that in production terms, the two drinks, whiskey and rum, are fully separate. Yet, there are historical and even some taste connections between them I think that bear consideration. These taste connections are probably more in the past than the present.

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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby Bourbon Joe » Wed Apr 18, 2012 2:48 pm

Great thread Mike. This got the "big guns" posting again, like in the old days. I'm really enjoying it.
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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby EllenJ » Wed Apr 18, 2012 5:55 pm

I'm thinking that what everyone seems to missing here is the point the good gentleman from Conyers brought up right at the very beginning of this thread (which probably should be moved over to its own place somewhere in the Non-Bourbons section).

And that is that, while there are an infinite variety of delicious vattings of straight bourbon (or rye) whiskies available (all but about six of which I believe Gary may have already experimented with at some point or another), the ingredient that gave it back a certain flavor that they all seem to otherwise lack was his (meaning Mike's) addition of enough malt whiskey to alter the proportions significantly. Gary then reinforced that idea by noting that malted barley once played a much larger role in rye and (probably) bourbon mashes than it does today. Could, implied Gary, THAT be the source of the illusive "old-style" whiskey taste that seemed to have disappeared about ¾ of the way through the 20th century? Well, maybe; it certainly makes sense to me.

And then I read a fascinating article by Dave Broom on his own blog, and another in the current Whisky Advocate, that spoke of "Paxerette", essentially a way of treating Scotch whisky barrels so as to impart an "aged sherry" flavor that was extremely common (perhaps universal) in single-malt scotches until 1989, when the SWA halted its use. There are some who say that Scotch has never tasted quite the same since. Of those, many feel that to be an improvement; others feel the "old-style" character is one reason why 23+ year old Scotch is worth the ridiculous prices folks are willing to pay for it.

For my own part, I find that the year of change, 1989, corresponds very nicely with the time frame during which the character of American bourbon also metamorphosed into it's more modern form. And also during which the American rye industry virtually vanished entirely, to be resurrected only recently, and then by the familiar Kentucky-ized version that bear but scant resemblance to the Monongahela or Maryland ryes of old.

The ingredients for straight whiskey, whether bourbon, rye, malt, or any mixture thereof, are quite clearly specified in the Code of Regulations. But just what constitutes a "new, charred oak container" is not. Nowhere does there appear to be an actual definition of "charred", nor is there any specific language that precludes the addition of -- well, anything you might dare to imagine -- to such a barrel prior to its being sold to a distillery as a "new" container; only that it wasn't used for storing whiskey before. The mind boggles at the idea of just what other changes may have occurred during the wonderful Reagan years of de-regulation that have irrevocably altered the way whiskey is made. Up until recently, very few of us realized that straight whiskey wasn't always barreled at 125 proof as it is today (that changed in 1962; it used to be 110 proof). The Code of Regulations changes often, and they don't make a big deal about publicizing those changes, especially when they diminish the flavor or allow cheaper production of the product.

And could such a wonderful beverage as American bourbon or rye even BE created today, provided it's producer (and advocates) would cast off the yoke of the word "straight bourbon", or "straight rye", or even "whiskey", and just proudly identify their product as a proprietary spirit drink, the way Cornelius Ampleworth already has (http://www.masterofmalt.com/barley-spirit/proprietary-barley-spirit-drink/) with his version?
Just thoughts that go through my mind as I sip, side-by-side, two nearly indistinguishable glasses of a vatting similar (though not identical) to the one I described earlier, and an 8-year-old Old Overholt distilled in 1959 at Broad Ford, Pennsylvania.

So now, put THAT in your Glencairn and savor it!
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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby Mike » Wed Apr 18, 2012 7:10 pm

What fun this is turning into!! John, in reply to your request that Gary and I try your vatting of Knob Creek, Evan Williams Single Barrell, and a smidge of Wasmund's unaged malt whiskey, I must say that although I tried to find the unaged Wasmund's, I could not lay me hands on any. I do, as I noted above, have some Wasmund's malt whiskey of an unspecified time in the barrel........ but I would expect that it is a matter of months because they say upfront that through their aging process the whiskey reaches maturity much faster..... and that they use 'chips' in the aging. I take those 'chips' to be from fruit trees, since they also mention using fruit chips and hardwoods in the smoke that flavors the malt.

Allow me to digress a moment on this Wasmund's malt whiskey. It is 96 proof, is unfiltered, and is a robustly flavored malt whiskey with the characteristic thickly sweet (but without the deeply rich barrel overtones of the Knob Creek Single Barrel) flavors of malt and an unmistakeable apple and pear cidery cast to it. It is an excellent whisky (their spelling) in its own right.

So, anyway, John, I am using a different Wasmund's malt whisky than what you used. And, being of a fair and balanced mind, I thought it appropriate to do a side by side comparison of the KCSB/EWSB Irish Whiskey and the KCSB/EWSB Wasmund's Malt Whisky. In the interest of remaining reasonably sober during this 'experiment' I prepared 25 mil of each sample to be compared. That means that the vattings each contain 60% Evan Williams Single Barrel, 35% Knob Creek Single Barrel, and 5% of either Irishman's Single Malt or Wasmund's. The difference in proof betwixt the two is negligible, 98 proof vs 99 proof.

Even though we are only adding 5% malt whisk(e)y to the potent 104 proof 35/60 KCSB/EWSB, the difference in the taste is astounding! Because of the addition of 'chips' (which I take to be from fruit trees, based on their use of fruit woods in the kiln process) that Wasmund's uses, there is a dimension that goes beyond the malt rounding that comes from the Irish Whiskey. This is not what I expected........ at all.

Even in these proportions, the malt whisk(e)y adds a dimension, a less direct sweetness that is more rounded, and fuller, than that offered in the original whiskey, that is both discernable and desirable. One searches for the best adjectives to describe the palate difference........... they are there!

Whether you would prefer the Wasmund's Malt Whisky vatting or the Irishman's Single Malt Whiskey vatting is largely a matter of your own taste. For me, at least, that the addition of (even an ever so small amount) a malt whisk(e)y to two first rate Single Barrel American Whiskies adds to their complexity and taste is not in question.
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